Sir Ian helps stamp out homophobia at East End schools

LORD of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen has visited secondary schools in the borough to talk about gay rights and his own battle against homophobia.

The Tony Award-winning actor was at Bethnal Green Technology College and Morpeth School as part of a nation-wide tour to raise awareness about homophobia.

The tour is organised by gay rights charity Stonewall, which Sir Ian co-founded.

He spoke to youngsters about growing up in a time when homosexuality was still illegal and his own experiences being bullied.

Sir Ian, who lives in Limehouse, said: “Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn’t realised how much anti-gay bullying goes on throughout the education system. By talking frankly about my own life as a gay man and listening to the concerns of staff and students, parents and governors, I hope the visits arranged by Stonewall may make a difference in the classroom and the playground and also give confidence to gay students about their lives in the future.”

Youngsters also got a chance to quiz the Academy Award nominated actor on his experiences.

He said: “I remember ten years ago when I was called a ‘batty boy’ and then pushed against a wall in broad daylight in London. I was very shocked by the incident,” adding: “I did go through a phase of trying to hide my sexuality as a young man and remember losing one film part as a producer thought I couldn’t play a straight part.”

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Research carried out for Stonewall by You.Gov revealed that teachers thought homophobic bullying was more prevalent within schools than racist bullying.